I love this picture! It’s Toni, James and I in Scotland. They were my cousins but became my brother and sister. Derrelyn isn’t in the picture but she’s my sister too. That’s sweetness. I have no biological siblings but in the ugliness – I got siblings. Sweetness!
Such bittersweet memories. But that’s how life is, right? Bitter and sweet. Sweet for the love of my family who took me in and loved me when I was in a bad way and too young to care for myself. Fun memories, love, laughs and lots of sweetness. But there was a ton of pain too. Lots of hurt and bitterness. And I ALWAYS worried about my mother.
I was just a little girl…maybe in the fourth grade. Something happened and I unexpectedly traveled many hours across the ocean to live with my aunt (my mother’s sister) and her family in Scotland. My uncle (my aunt’s husband) worked in the oilfield and they had just moved there.
My memory frequently fails me which I have always seen as a blessing instead of a curse. There are some things you just shouldn’t remember. I have never seen much need in digging around in my buried memories. The way I see it, they are buried for a reason. I have enough junk to work through without digging around for more. I don’t so much remember details of events or memories. Instead, I remember feelings I felt when I was with people. Like sweet feelings or scary feelings. With mother, I usually felt scared. And worried. I worried she wouldn’t make good decisions and we would end up in a scary place or situation which was frequently the case.
From what I understand, Mother had progressed from just using pills and alcohol to heavier drugs and using needles. I had missed several days of school and the school couldn’t get in touch with Mother to make sure I was okay. They called my aunt who at that time lived in the same town. She drove out to check on me. She found me doctoring mother’s wounds from injection sites. Mother was married to her third husband at the time and had lived with them for a short time. But I think he must have seen the “crazy” and got out. Who could blame him? Thankfully, I don’t remember much of this. Mother’s position was always that I was stolen from her and that there was always some sort of a cover up from some illegal activity. Either way, I was still just a little girl. This wasn’t normal. When I looked at other girls my age, they didn’t look like they knew of the things I saw or worried about.
I guess Mother probably didn’t see her drug use as being a big problem like others did. But that’s what happens, things get minimized. Just like me – did you notice what I did? I made a profound statement – She found me doctoring mother’s wounds from injection sites. I minimized and skipped over it quickly…like I was rattling off what I had eaten for breakfast. That’s what I’ve always done. But there is a lot of emotion buried in that statement. Bitterness, fear and pain. No sweetness in that statement. I minimized…just like mother. Mother had multiple sores from injecting heroin. I missed school because of my mother’s drug problem. That’s a lot to deal with at any age but certainly for a little girl in the fourth grade. While other little girls were worried about what Sally Sue said about her or whether Billy Bob thought she was cute, I was worried about mother and her drugs. I hated when she sat in a chair and her head would just slowly fall over as she was mumbling. She “nodded off” frequently and it always made me so mad. I worried…would we have enough to eat? Would we load up in the car and make another drug run? I knew where most of the local drug houses were. She took me with her sometimes. It wasn’t like what you’d think. The houses didn’t have a big sign that said “Drug House.” No, they looked like a normal everyday house. Some even had kids who lived there. We would pull up like we were visiting a friend of Mother’s. Mother would knock on the door. They’d let us in and talk like they were friends. There would be a quick exchange of something. We would leave and then soon…Mother would “nod” off or be out of commission for quite some time. At first, I didnt know it was drug houses or drug dealers we were visiting. I thought we were just going to visit her friends. We just didn’t stay long and soon after we left those houses, things would get scary.
I always saw Mother as weak and loving her drugs more than she loved me…her only daughter. But that’s not the truth. The truth is…those drugs have so much power that they truly control some people. It isn’t about being weak or strong. Some people are powerless and controlled by the substance. It takes a lot to overcome the power of drugs and have a successful recovery, which is a lifelong process.
For all of you in recovery – good for you! You can do this. Celebrate and keep working! I’m proud of you!
For those of you who are dealing with an addict – I get it. I know it sucks and it’s tough. It’s more than tough – it’s heart wrenching to sit by and watch the destruction and know that you are just as powerless as they are. Take care of yourself. Set healthy boundaries, you may need to love from afar. You can’t change or fix them. They have to want to do the work…and its hard work. But you can extend love and show support for their recovery. Every single time they relapse and start recovery again – support them. Don’t judge or fuss and make them feel bad. You’re wasting your breath and energy. Believe me I know. I speak from experience. Besides, there is no need. They feel worse than you could ever possibly imagine. There is no need in trying to make them feel worse. That isn’t productive. The most important thing to remember is that it’s not about you. It has nothing to do with lack of love or any of that junk so don’t even let it in your head. They love you but they have a hard time loving themselves.
For those of you caring for or in contact with an addict’s child through raising, teaching, coaching, family or as a friend – love them. Help them. Set an example of love by showing them and loving them. Look past the obvious. If they are struggling or having behavioral problems – dig deep. It may be something unimaginable. You could be the one to help save that child and get them on a different path. History repeats itself and addiction is a chronic disease with a genetic predisposition. That child will always worry about their addict. They will always try and protect them. You’ll probably never understand it so don’t even try.
If love were enough – there would be no more addicts or alcoholics. But love isn’t enough to cure them but extending unconditional love will help heal you.
I can’t speak for Mother. I never walked in her shoes. I know she was in so much emotional pain and suffered so much. It makes my heart hurt. Sure, I have things to work through and deal with because of the choices she made when I was little and dependent on her. But it wasn’t my job to judge her. It was my job to love her. To show her love. We are all sinners. We all fail sometimes. None of us are perfect. It’s easy to show love to those who show you sweetness. But that’s not a challenge. Anyone can do that. How do you treat the ones who are hard to love? God loves us though our sins and mistakes. He cries and weeps for us but when we ask for forgiveness and repent…he loves us and forgives us. How can we expect to receive that kind of love from God when we aren’t willing to extend it to our brothers and sisters? Something I learned a long time ago – It was never between Mother and I – it was between her and God. It wasn’t my job to judge her. It was my job to love her…like God loves me.
Don’t forget to focus on the sweetness. Because there are many blessings you will overlook if you just focus on the ugliness.
Sometimes, you have to love from a distance and you have to remove yourself from a toxic relationship. You have to set healthy boundaries but you should always extend love. How you react and treat people is a reflection of who you really are – it has very little to do with them.
Life is bittersweet!
Finding the sweet side of crazy!